Senate Approves COVID-19 Emergency Funds for Public Media

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The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief bill that passed the Senate Saturday night (March 6) also had some rescue funding for public broadcasting.

The bill included $175 million in emergency assistance to public TV and radio stations.

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Patrick Butler, president of America's Public Television Stations, said the money was welcome and definitely needed given the pandemic-related strain on resources.

“We’ve conveyed COVID-related information to millions of viewers from Governors, State health and education officials, and other authorities through our role as the 'C-SPAN' of many State governments and in our capacity as the trusted voice of community leadership across the country," he said. "And we’ve provided countless public safety communications to keep our citizens informed of health and safety alerts and other critical matters."

He said that was being done mostly with unbudgeted funds while collectively stations were losing "hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from State governments and private sources due to the severe economic downturn."

He said the money would help public broadcasters provide remote learning to students without internet access, both over-the-air and via datacasting.

"We are grateful for the broad bipartisan support for this emergency funding for public media among both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate," he said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.